"The president speaks for himself," Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on "Fox News Sunday." He was addressing President Trump's blaming of "both sides" in the racially charged violence in Charlottesville, Va. Tillerson declined to say whether Trump's response represented "American values."
The frustration over President Trump's attitude toward race relations has boiled over to the president's most senior advisors and cabinet members. Gary Cohn, director of the White House Economic Council, even reportedly drafted a resignation letter before ultimately changing his mind.
The last two weeks have been an emotional roller coaster for many Americans. The events that took place in Charlottesville were not only frightening, but re-opened the gaping wound of race relations dating back to the founding of this nation. Our country has a lot of progress to make in racial reconciliation and civil rights, but I also recognize that we have come a very long way.
As a black male in society, I am constantly pushed to view life through the prism of race. As a black Republican, I am faced with even more daunting challenges. I already standout from the crowd in my community.
The black community is not monolith, however, most black people clearly identify as Democrats. The community is highly vocal against Republicans and our conservative agenda.
Considering that the Civil Rights Act entailed basic human rights for the Black people and most Republicans supported it (in fact, the bill needed Republican votes because not enough Democrats in the Senate voted for the bill, despite a Democratic supermajority), Democrats have been nothing short of masterful in erasing that history. Although Democrats were complicit in marginalization of black Americans via policy and violence against black Americans, they still point to the flawed 1964 Republican nominee for president, Sen. Barry Goldwater of Arizona, who voted against the act.
This has reverberated throughout generations and caused the black community to view the GOP as the party of Goldwater, which we are not. This has often put me at odds with my community and in some cases even family members who completely disowned me because of my party affiliation.
However, I remain consistent in my beliefs. I will stand in vocal opposition where I believe the party or a member of the party is wrong. And I will defend Republicans where I believe appropriate.
On Aug. 15, after watching President Trump's press conference on Charlottesville, I knew I had to speak out.
His words were botched. His tone, tenor, and the disdain on his face when asked questions about Charlottesville bothered me. In addition, Trump's claim that there were good people on both sides, indicating there were good people paling around with neo-Nazi's, white supremacists, and the KKK, sent a feeling of disbelief and angst through my body.
Keep in mind these aren't just hate groups -- these are institutions of hate that have permeated their way through the DNA of our country, which sometimes have led to unequal justice, unfair housing, and an education system which had no true concept of equality, among other issues that have disenfranchised black Americans since the founding of our country.
I immediately took to social media and declared, "The President just demonstrated on live national television that he doesn't understand race relations in America."
The next morning, I had the opportunity to speak to the president indirectly through his favorite morning show, "Fox and Friends." In the studio, I was saddled with an emotional weight. As I spoke I couldn't withhold my emotions any longer.
My words were clear and, although some time has passed, my feelings remain unchanged:
I come today with a very heavy heart. Last night, I couldn't sleep at all because President Trump, our president, has literally betrayed the conscience of our country. The very moral fabric in which we've made progress when it comes to race relations in America? He's failed us, and it's very unfortunate that our president would say things like he did in that press conference yesterday when he says, ‘There are good people on the side of the Nazis. They weren't all Nazis and they weren't all white supremacists.' Mr. President: People, good people, don't pal around with Nazis and white supremacists. Maybe they don't consider themselves white supremacists and Nazis, but certainly they hold those views. This has become very troubling and for anyone to come on any network and defend what President Trump did and said at that press conference yesterday is completely lost and the potential to be morally bankrupt.
I received backlash from members of my own party, many of which in the past applauded my efforts on behalf of the party on an almost-daily basis. Celebrities like the Rapper T.I., Don Cheadle, D.L. Hughley, and others expressed strong reactions and negative commentary regarding me. I even received notes from viewers that weren't happy with my segment. I received threats, including a message from a viewer who said she was praying for my death (a good Christian woman, I'm sure).
If Trump wants to be the uniter-in-chief that he claimed to be on the campaign trail, it's time for him to establish a real dialogue directly from the White House. Race relations in America haven't been healed by either party. Ironically, in the post-Obama era, (and with all the post-racial rhetoric) it appears hate groups have grown and become more resonant.
It is very hard to unify a country whose very nature and existence was predicated on subjugation and discrimination, however, incremental change has and will continue to lead to more progress for all Americans.
If we can't come together at a time when our country is hurting, when can we come together? Now we need each other more than ever.
Gianno Caldwell (@GiannoCaldwell) is a contributor to the Washington Examiner's Beltway Confidential blog. He is founder of Caldwell Strategic Consulting and a frequent political commentator on Fox News. He occasionally guest hosts the Armstrong Williams radio show on Sirius XM.
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